Education Department Demands more Evidence

USDOEBig changes may be coming in the way the Department of Education selects grant recipients. Last year, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to federal agencies requiring them to demonstrate the use of evidence in their fiscal 2014 budget requests. This new requirement signals a shift of emphasis toward the use of “evidence and rigorous evaluation in budget, management and policy decisions.”

The Department of Education has made a number of proposed changes to EDGAR, or the Education Department General Administrative Regulations, which reveal the way in which evidence may play a larger role in education funding.The full text of the proposed changes is available at

Proposed changes would have the following effects:

  • The extent to which grantees meet performance targets would be considered in making continuation grants.
  • Procurement processes would be simplified to allow for the section of  implementation sites, implementation partners, and evaluation service providers during the preparation of an application.
  • The prohibition on subgrants would be lifted in some cases.
  • New selection criteria would be approved, including two new selection factors  regarding the extent to which the proposed project is supported by evidence of promise or strong theory. In addition, new selection factors would address the extent to which the methods of evaluation would, if well-implemented, produce evidence about the project’s effectiveness that would meet the What Works Clearinghouse Evidence Standards.
  • A priority would be established for projects that can cite and build upon an existing base of strong or moderate evidence of effectiveness. The Secretary could either establish a separate competition or give a competitive preference to applications supported by strong or moderate evidence of effectiveness.
  • A project may be able to receive an extension of the funding period for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and reporting performance data.
  • The following terms will be defined and integrated into future notices: ‘‘ambitious,’’ ‘‘baseline data,’’ ‘‘evidence of promise,’’ ‘‘large sample,’’ ‘‘logic model,’’ ‘‘moderate evidence of effectiveness,’’ ‘‘multi-site sample,’’ ‘‘national level,’’ ‘‘performance measure,’’ ‘‘performance target,’’ ‘‘randomized controlled trial,’’ ‘‘regional level,’’ ‘‘relevant outcome,’’ ‘‘quasiexperimental study,’’ ‘‘strong evidence of effectiveness,’’ and ‘‘strong theory.’’

So, what does all this mean for grant seekers? For those who seek a portion of the more than $2 billion in competitive, non-formula grants from the Department of Education, it means that evidence will play a much larger role in one’s ability to be funded and keep funding. More of the Department’s grants will take on the flavor of the Investing in Innovation or i3 competition, in which applicants compete in tiers based on the level of evidence supporting their proposed intervention. Only those projects with the most solid evidence basis are eligible to compete for the largest pots of money.

Final EDGAR regulations should be released within the next few months. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to ramp up data collection and begin cultivating a relationship with a project evaluator.

To access the OMB’s memo, see

For the proposed rulemaking, see